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Let the Games Begin

*Pre-season's over on "American Idol." We're now down to the final 12, and The Game.

This week: The Diana Ross Songbook.

Points to Brandon for being the only "Idol" wannabe to try out a Bust Some Moves strategy. But he discovers mid-way through "Can't Hurry Love" that he also can't sing and dance at the same time and forgets some of the words.

Sticks with the A Star is Born wide-eyed newcomer strategy that has somehow served her very well so far even though the judges seem to understand she is in fact a professional backup singer by day and is also one of the oldest contestant, pushing 30. Shockingly, even when she lays it on too thick -- even by "American Idol" standards, which is really saying something -- and claims she's weeping after singing "Home" from "The Wiz" because she's never experienced anything like applause on stage, the judges buy it. Melinda wins this week's My Backstory Beats Your Backstory Award.

Blinded by vanity, literally, Chris takes off his glasses to sing "Endless Love." This give us the Simon Cowell Insult of the Evening, when the unerringly catty judge suggests Chris put them back on. Sligh also appeals for "Idol" Special Victim's Unit Case status, saying he was stabbed in the back by the show's song arranger.

Now deeply committed to her bad-girl rocker niche, Gina combs the Ross library for a naughty song and, ironically settles on the I May be Illegitimate but I'm Not That Kind of Girl ballad, "Love Child."

Perfecting his My Power is in My Hair strategy, Sanjaya comes out coiffed like Ross -- totally topping the week he came out tressed like "Idol" judge Paula Abdul. But he is overwhelmed by his song -- "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" -- and by the band, which is bigger and louder than ever. For any other contestant to score fewer points for performance this week will require going into negative numbers. And yet, he will probably stick around because he so adorably androgynous.

Career Save of the Evening goes to Haley, who comes out with a conventional If You Can't Sing Distract 'Em With Cleavage strategy, but nimbly switches to Self Flagellation -- calling her performance of "Missing You" "the worst" and herself "a schmuck" -- when her original game plan does not click with judges Randy Jackson and Paula (though it works like gangbusters on Simon who says "I'm very impressed with your presence on the stage tonight.")

Announces his I Don't Have a Game Plan game plan before singing "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" in slow motion. Points for not blaming the arrangement.

Already winner of the Jennifer Hudson Most Likely to Succeed Even if She Fails Trophy, LaKisha gives an uncannily controlled version of "God Bless the Child" and racks up extra points for being the only "Idol" to never try to oversell a song with mugging at the camera.

Blake's Remix Strategy hits a wall with "You Keep Me Hangin' On " prompting Randy to advise him that sometimes he should just let a classic be a classic. Blake tells Ryan he's not buying it.

Wardrobe Dysfunction Award goes to Steph for the paisley-esque frock - a rare misstep by the best-dressed Idolette this season. She also bags the Honorary Doctorate of Musicology Excuses for explaining to the judges - who wonder why her performance was all foreplay with no big finish - that the song was "too long to fit it in."

Looking ever more like the love child of Justin Timberlake and K-Fed, Chris performs Ross disco disaster "The Boss" which triggers this week's American Idol Judges Senior Moment, when Paula and Randy begin to yak about him having a whole late 70's Dan -Hartman-from-Instant-Replay vibe going on. Richardson has no idea what they're talking about. Neither does the audience.

Best Song Choice to Jordin for picking "If We Hold On Together" -- the theme song for an animated kids' flick and a "gooey" tune, as Simon called -- which plays perfectly into her 17-going-on-17 game plan and, Simon says, turns this week's performance night into a three-way race among her, Melinda and LaKisha.

Editor's note: Join Lisa at 1 p.m. today for a live online chat to discuss this year's "Idol" finalists and weigh in on last night's performances.

By Lisa de Moraes  |  March 14, 2007; 8:13 AM ET
Categories:  "American Idol"  
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